In order to balance the external with the internal, we must find inspiration, which “embraces first of all a certain supernatural and extraordinary enlightenment of the mind.” We must learn to breathe, to allow the angels to breathe – in/out; out/in. Afflatus is a divine imparting of knowledge or power. It is the way the spirits or guardian angels “blow” or breathe upon us and we receive their gifts by breathing in/inhaling the life force; then comes the brainstorm, the creative impulse, the flow of revelations and truth. The force will inspirit, descending from its own light, and we inspire its essence. It comes in breathing which infuses the mystic with life that creates. For the artist, the quality of the breath of life is of prime importance; for in its make-up lies its inspiration education.
“Ideas are often poor ghosts; but sometimes they are made flesh; they breathe upon us with warm breath, they touch us with soft responsive hands, they look at us with sad sincere eyes, and speak to us in appealing tones; then their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are drawn after them with gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame.”
Accounts of inspiration were seldom seen in the ancient world; however, the prophets’ stories are told within the oldest authentic testimonies. During the Renaissance began historic accounts of individual artists who explained their experiments and documented just what inspired them.
“Many artists and scientists of modern times have written about the moment of artistic activity when out of a vague creative mood there suddenly dawned, as though by illumination, the clear consciousness of the essential features of the projected work, as they have observed it in themselves.”
We must compare many viewpoints in order to understand the great mystery of inspiration. I felt greatly blessed and fortunate to have found contained in one brilliant book about prophets many statements by great mystic artists of all time. Their basic message in common: the Spirit moves and communicates.
“‘I have written… from immediate dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time, without premeditation, and even against my Will; the time it has taken in writing was thus render’d non-existent. I am the secretary, the authors are in eternity,’ stated William Blake, the poet (1757-1827).
Dickens declared that when he sat down to write, ‘some beneficent power’ showed it all to him.
Tchaikovsky defined his creative state ‘as the result of that supernatural and inexplicable force we call inspiration.’
Goethe made reference to the trance-like state in which he sometimes wrote. ‘…it has often happened that I have had a sheet of paper before me all aslant, and I have not discovered it till all has been written, or I have found no room to write anymore. …almost unconsciously, like a sleepwalker. The songs made me, not I them; the songs had me in their power. …such things are elevated above all earthly control. Man must consider them as unexpected gifts from above, as pure children of God, which he must receive and venerate with joyful thanks. The process savours of the daemonic element which irresistibly does with a man what it pleases and to which he surrenders himself unconsciously while believing that he is acting on his own impulses.’ In such cases a man is often to be considered as an instrument of higher powers, ‘as a vessel which has been found worthy to receive divine influence.’
‘Whence and how my ideas come I know not; nor can I force them,’ said Mozart.
‘One hears – one does not seek; one takes – one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightning, inevitably without hesitation – I have never had any choice about it.’” Nietzsche describes to us the origins of creation.
One of my favourite bands, The Moody Blues, were in touch with not only universal consciousness (“understand the voice within”) but also nature’s rhythms (“listen to the tide slowly turning”). They were inspired by great forces, the source of which they could never understand. I heard Justin Hayward say (as the camera scanned the handwritten lyrics of Nights in White Satin - one of the greatest rock songs ever written):
“Songwriting, for me, is one of those things that is such a magic moment. The time when you write a song, when it comes to you; I tend not to analyze it too much because I just don’t know where it comes from. But it’s the most beautiful feeling and it’s something from nothing… something that didn’t exist a few minutes before… and it’s a wonderful thing.”